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Friday, 22 May 2015

Young Greens launch a petition calling for votes for 16/17 year olds in the EU Referendum

Last year Scotland voted in a historic referendum on independence. At that referendum, 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote - and proved decisively why they deserved it. They engaged strongly and passionately with the debate, and an estimated 75% of them turned out to vote. Following the success of that experiment, the Young Greens have today launched a petition to allow 16 and 17 year olds a vote in an EU Referendum.

Following the General Election success by the Tories, the UK is being given the chance to vote on its membership of the EU, by the end of 2017. The Young Greens point out that "this is a decision which will affect all of us, and an issue which many young people care deeply about." The Young Greens also say "that if the government wants the referendum to be fair and inclusive, 16-year-olds should be given the opportunity to have their say."

As the Prime Minister said about the Independence referendum: "This isn't a decision that can be reversed after the next election" and the Young Greens say this referendum is the same, they go further saying the result of an EU referendum may not be reversed "perhaps any time in our lifetimes, and it will have a huge impact on young people's futures". So they say: "It's vital that they are allowed to vote on it. We call on the UK government to make the voting age in the EU referendum 16."

The Young Greens' petition is available here

Lib Dems launch campaign to stop the Tories abolishing the Human Rights Act

Before the general election the Liberal Democrats warned that if the Tories won a majority they would scrap the Human Rights Act. Now the Tories have set out plans to abolish the Human Rights Act in the first 100 days of this Parliament. The Human Rights Act protects basic human rights regardless of your gender, religion or background and ensures that everyone is treated equally and fairly.

Liberal Democrats say they believe in safeguarding the interests and rights of individuals. That's why they have launched a campaign to stop the Tories from abolishing the Human Rights Act. A Lib Dem Spokesperson commented: "If you want to protect the Human Rights Act, then add your name to our petition today."

The Human Rights Act gives people access to:
  • the right to life;
  • the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
  • the right to liberty and security of the person;
  • the right to a fair trial;
  • prohibition of punishment without law;
  • the right to respect for private and family life;
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • the right to freedom of expression;
  • the right to freedom of assembly and association;
  • the right for men and women to marry and found a family;
  • the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;
  • the right to education;
  • the right to free elections;
  • and the prohibition of discrimination.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Angus Robertson announces SNP Spokesperson team

Following the Scottish National Party's performance in general election, where they became the third party in the House of Commons. Westminster SNP Leader Angus Robertson MP announced the membership of both the 17 strong group leadership and the 32 strong list of Group Spokespeople to SNP MPs this afternoon in the House of Commons.

Leadership 
  • Group Leader - Angus Robertson MP
  • Deputy Group Leader - Stewart Hosie MP

Economy

  • Economy Spokesperson - Stewart Hosie MP
  • Treasury Spokesperson - Roger Mullin MP

International Affairs

  • International Affairs and Europe Spokesperson - Alex Salmond MP 
  • Europe Spokesperson - Stephen Gethins MP
  • International Development Spokesperson - Patrick Grady MP

Justice and Home Affairs
  • Justice & Home Affairs - Joanna Cherry MP
  • Asylum & Immigration Spokesperson - Stuart McDonald MP
  • Civil Liberties Spokesperson - Anne McLaughlin MP

Social Justice and Welfare
  • Social Justice and Welfare Spokesperson - Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP
  • Fair Work and Employment Spokesperson - Hannah Bardell MP 
  • Pensions Spokesperson - Ian Blackford MP 
  • Disabilities Spokesperson - Natalie McGarry MP

Health and Education
  • Public Services and Education Spokesperson - Carol Monaghan MP 
  • Health Spokesperson - Philippa Whitford MP

Defence
  • Defence Spokesperson - Brendan O’Hara MP 
  • Armed Forces and Veterans Spokesperson - Kirsten Oswald MP

Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Business, Innovation and Skills Spokesperson - Michelle Thomson MP
  • Trade and Investment Spokesperson - Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik MP
  • Cities Spokesperson - Alison Thewliss MP 

Energy and Climate Change
  • Energy and Climate Change Spokesperson - Callum McCaig MP
  • Climate Justice Spokesperson - Lisa Cameron MP

Environment and Transport
  • Environment and Rural Affairs Spokesperson - Callum Kerr MP
  • Transport Spokesperson - Drew Hendry MP

Culture and Equalities
  • Culture, Media and Sport Spokesperson - John Nicolson MP
  • Equalities, Women and Children Spokesperson - Angela Crawley MP

Scotland and Constitution
  • Shadow Leader of the House of Commons - Pete Wishart MP
  • Scottish Parliament/Scottish Government Liaison - Deidre Brock MP
  • Scotland Office Spokesperson - Margaret Ferrier MP 
  • Cabinet Office Spokesperson - Tommy Sheppard MP
  • Devolved Government Relations Spokesperson - Deidre Brock MP 
  • House of Lords Spokesperson - Kirsty Blackman MP

SNP Whips Office

  • Chief Whip - Mike Weir MP
  • Deputy Whip - Marion Fellows MP 
  • Deputy Whip - Owen Thomson MP

The SNP leader in the House of Commons Angus Robertson MP said: "The SNP Westminster Leadership and team of spokespeople bring together a great range of talents from the record-sized SNP group in the House of Commons. We will coordinate and develop the policy priorities of the SNP at Westminster while working closely with colleagues in the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament, European Parliament and local government."

"I’m proud that we have been able to follow the lead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in having a gender balanced team of spokespeople as well as matching the experience of long serving SNP parliamentarians and newly elected MPs. All SNP parliamentarians will be working in policy teams, with many taking up committee places when the committees start their work shortly in the House of Commons."

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Voting reform campaigners hand petition to No' 10

Politicians and campaigners outside Number 10

Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader, and Amelia Womack, Green Party Deputy Leader, joined campaigners and politicians to deliver a petition calling for reform of the electoral system. Over one million people voted for the Green Party at the General Election, which saw Green MP Caroline Lucas re-elected with an increased majority in Brighton Pavilion.

Leading figures from five of the major parties, including Natalie Bennett (Green) Nigel Farage (UKIP), Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP), Sal Brinton (LD), Tom Brake (LD) and Leanne Wood (PC) came together to add their names to a 120,000-strong petition calling for a fairer voting system. The petition and hand-in was organised by the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy.

Natalie Bennett said: "The case for electoral reform is stronger than ever. Millions of people in Britain were disenfranchised at the last election, as the creaking old voting system failed to take into account people’s views in our new multi-party politics."

Ms Bennett continued: "If this Government is serious about re-energising our politics, they must look seriously at constitutional changes which allow people’s opinions to be better represented in the House of Commons. I’m pleased to be joining together with other parties today to be calling for a new voting system which allows a variety of voices to be heard in Parliament."

Bennett and Womack were joined by politicians from the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, UKIP and Plaid Cymru in signing the petition during a photo call at Westminster’s Old Palace Yard. They then handed the petition in at 10 Downing Street. Polling released shortly before the General Election revealed that 74% of the public support the principle of proportional voting, where votes are accurately translated into seats.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Public to play key role in Labour leadership election

The election of a new Labour leader will be played out before the public, Harriet Harman will declare today. Labour’s acting leader will pledge an “open” contest and will reveal party chiefs have already begun talks with broadcasters about staging hustings with members of the public given a key role. In a speech at the party’s HQ, marking the start of Labour’s fightback, Harriet Harman is expected to announce:
  • The public - not just Labour members - will be able to ask questions of leadership and deputy leadership candidates at hustings events.
  • Hustings will be staged in the towns and suburbs where Labour hoped to win in the general election, but where the party failed to make inroads.
  • Labour members will be encouraged to bring supporters of other parties, or non-voters, to hear speeches by the contenders.

Harriet Harman is expected to say: “As we conduct this debate, as we elect our leader and deputy leader, we must have the public in the forefront of our minds. We must let the public in. Into the process and into our minds as we make the decisions about who is our next leader and how we go forward. So we are going to start that with how we do the leadership elections.

Harriet Harman is expected to say Labour should not be ‘afraid’ of 'letting the public in’ and is expected to add: "Indeed if there is one thought that I think should drive the thinking of our members as we elect a new leadership team it is this - which of them has the best qualities and leadership skills most likely to win over the support of the public? Not the politically obsessed public, the people like us, but the people who don’t decide about their choice of MP And choice of government until they have to."

"We need to see this process as one that is not merely electing a new leader and deputy leader. But one that is helping to rebuild old connections and fashion new connections with a public that rejected us north and south." She is also expected to add.

Hustings should be different from the sort of 'cosy’ events - held at Westminster or in safe Labour seats - that have characterised the party’s leadership contests in the past, Harriet Harman will say. The 2010 Labour leadership contest was 'comradely and well organised’, but was too much 'within Labour’s comfort zone.’ Harriet Harman expected to add: "We were talking to ourselves. We have to look outwards and stress-test our candidates with the public."

She will add: "So I want to see party meetings where members bring non-members. Where someone who voted Labour brings along someone who voted Tory or SNP Or didn’t vote at all. And I want to see the contenders show how they make their case to those people. And I think we should let the public in on all of that."

"Let’s welcome non-supporters into our discussions too. Not to vote in our internal elections but to be a part of them. That’s why our hustings have got to be different. We need robust tough televised hustings which involve the public. We have begun talks with broadcasters about how we make these happen. We are very open and keen to make this work. As interim leader, I have one principle here - let the public in."

She is expected to say: "We cannot just hold hustings in our Labour heartlands - we have to go to areas where we didn’t win. Because ultimately we are electing the team that we think can lead not just the party but lead the country. And that must be our guiding thought. Last time our hustings were in front of Labour members and were in cities where Labour won. We must have those hustings now in towns and suburbs where Labour lost. We have to go back and ask local people from those areas to be brutally honest about what they think of us and what they want from us.”

Harriet Harman will be clear that Labour’s new leader and deputy leader will be the choice of the whole party - not just of one section of it. She will say: “We will have strict rules to ensure there is a level playing field for each one of the candidates. Last time the unions communicated directly with many of their members, sending them ballot papers with accompanying material only mentioning one candidate. There will be none of that this time. The Electoral Reform Society will send out individual ballot papers to each member of the electorate.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

For strong opposition Labour need Yvette Cooper

By David Hough, Labour candidate for Rayleigh & Wickford at the 2015 election:

On Thursday May 7th the Labour Party lost its second consecutive General Election. Although its overall share of the vote went up slightly, due to the way votes broke in the marginal, the strong performance by Ukip, especially in our northern heartlands, and the devastation wrought by the Scottish National Party, it finished some 26 seats down on the 2010 performance.

There will be post-mortems in abundance as to why this happened, and myriad reasons given, be it those who were never convinced by Ed Miliband, our failure to lay to rest the accusations that the previous government had caused the world financial crisis, that we didn’t offer an in/out referendum on the EU, or that we just weren’t appealing to people’s aspirations.

The post-mortem will continue, and as we all know hindsight is 20/20, but as defeat became inevitable, thoughts quickly turned to where would the party go from here. It was almost certain that Ed Miliband would decide to stand down, as indeed he announced the following morning. Typically he took full responsibility for what had happened, but he had fought a good campaign, stood up to much abuse and negativity throughout the campaign, and the preceding five years, and can leave with his head held high.

Now, however, as well as working out why we lost, we have two other big tasks ahead. First we have to provide strong opposition to the Conservative government, and we have to elect a new leader who will map out the direction they feel we need to take.

As I write this, there are four candidates who have declared their interest; Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh. To my mind the candidate who is best placed to take the Labour Party forward and lead a strong opposition to the Conservative government is Yvette Cooper.

As Yvette said in her statement announcing her candidacy:

“We need a Labour party that moves beyond the old labels of left and right, and focuses four-square on the future. Credible, compassionate, creative, and connected to the day to day realities of life… that is why the next Labour prime minister needs clear purpose; a clear view of the problems we face and a clear priorities for the future.”

Yvette understands that to move forward doesn’t mean forgetting everything the Labour movement stands for, but that we also need to ensure that we speak for everyone and not just those the system is leaving behind. We should also be proud of much that we have achieved; the NHS, the minimum wage, Sure Start, expanding universities to name a few. Labour must look to the future, but must not forget its past and what it stands for.

The Labour Party that Yvette Cooper would lead would look to move beyond the old politics of left and right. We must appeal to those from all parts of our society, not by giving up on our beliefs, but by ensuring that they are expressed in a way to meet the challenges of the modern world, as Yvette wrote in the Mirror on Friday, “that’s why Labour needs to be bigger in our appeal, bolder in our ambitions and brighter about the future.”

This I why I am supporting Yvette Cooper to be the next leader of the Labour Party. I believe she has the experience to guide the party through a thorough and realistic examination of why we lost. She also understands that the Labour Party has to widen its appeal, and speak to all sectors of British society, and build a vision to unite us, and not divide us.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Labour & Lib Dems suffer as Tories make 500 gains

Thursday was not just the General Election day, but there were local elections in parts of England as well. The massacre of the Liberal Democrats continued, they lost half their councils and over a third of their councillors. Labour didn't do much better only losing, net, 3 of their councils but lost over 200 councillors. The British National Party also lost their final council seat.

UKIP took control of South Thanet Council, despite Nigel Farage losing the Parliamentary seat. The Greens continued to make steady progress at local level, increasing their number of councillors by 11. However the night belonged to the Tories, they gained control of 32 councils and gained over 500 new councillors as the local government map also turned mainly blue. The results are below:

Councils:
Conservative 163 +32
Labour 73 -3
Liberal Democrat 4 -4
UKIP 1 +1 
Green 0
Residents 1
Independent 0 -1
Other 0
No Overall Control (NoC) 36 -25

Councillors
Conservative 5,482 +532 
Labour 2,238 -207
Liberal Democrat 656 -407
UKIP 200 +175 
Green 87 +11
Residents 55 +2
Independent 498 -116
Liberal 6 -3
Independent Community Health Concern 2 -3
Respect 0
British National Party 0 -1
English Democrats 0 -2

Results:
Allerdale - NoC

Amber Valley - Con Gain from Lab
Arun - Con Hold
Ashfield - Lab Hold
Ashford - Con Hold
Aylesbury Vale - Con Hold
Babergh - Con Gain from NoC
Barnsley - Lab Hold
Barrow-in-Furness - Lab Hold
Basildon - NoC
Basingstoke - Con Gain from NoC
Bassetlaw - Lab Hold
Bath and North East Somerset - Con Gain from NoC
Bedford - NoC
Birmingham - Lab Hold
Blaby - Con Hold
Blackburn and Darwen - Lab Hold
Blackpool - Lab Hold
Bolsover - Lab Hold
Bolton - Lab Hold
Bournemouth - 
Con Hold
Bracknell - Con Hold
Bradford - Lab Hold
Braintree - Con Hold
Breckland - Con Hold
Brentwood and Ongar - Con Gain from NoC 
Brighton and Hove - NoC
Bristol - NoC
Broadland - Con Hold
Bromsgrove - Con Hold
Broxbourne - Con Hold
Broxtowe - Con Gain from NoC
Burnley - Lab Hold
Bury - Lab Hold
Calderdale - NoC
Cambridge - Lab Hold
Cannock Chase - Lab Hold
Canterbury - Con Hold
Carlisle - Lab Hold
Castle Point - Con Hold
Central Bedfordshire - Con Hold
Charnwood - Con Hold
Chelmsford - Con Hold
Cherwell - Con Hold
Cheshire East - Con Hold
CheshireWest and Chester - Lab Gain from Con
Chesterfield - Lab Hold
Chichester - Con Hold
Chiltern - Con Hold
Chorley - Lab Hold
Christchurch - Con Hold
Colchester - NoC
Copeland - Lab Hold
Corby - Lab Hold
Cotswold - Con Hold
Coventry - Lab Hold
Craven - Con Hold
Crawley - Lab Hold
Dacorum - Con Hold
Darlington - Lab Hold
Dartford - Con Hold
Daventry - Con Hold
Derby - Lab Hold
Derbyshire Dales - Con Hold
Doncaster - Lab Hold
Dover - Con Hold
Dudley - Lab Hold
East Cambridgeshire - Con Hold
East Devon - Con Hold
East Dorset - Con Hold
East Hampshire - Con Hold
East Hertfordshire - Con Hold
East Lindsey - Con Gain from NoC
East Northamptonshire - Con Hold
East Riding of Yorkshire - Con Hold
East Staffordshire - Con Gain from NoC
Eastbourne - Lib Dem Hold
Eastleigh - Lib Dem Hold
Eden - Con Gain from NoC
Elmbridge - Con Hold
Epping Forest - Con Hold
Epsom and Ewell - Residents Association Hold
Erewash - Con Hold
Exeter - Lab Hold
Fenland - Con Hold
Forest Heath - Con Hold
Forest of Dean - NoC
Fylde - Con Hold
Gateshead - Lab Hold
Gedling - Lab Hold
Gloucester - Con Gain from NoC
Gravesham - Con Gain from NoC
Great Yarmouth - NoC 
Guildford - Con Hold
Halton - Lab Hold
Hambleton - Con Hold
Harborough - Con Hold
Harlow - Lab Hold
Harrogate - Con Hold
Hart - NoC
Hartlepool - Lab Hold
Havant - Con Hold
Herefordshire - Con Gain from NoC
Hertsmere - Con Hold
High Peak - Con Gain from NoC
Hinkley and Bosworth - Con Gain from Lib Dem
Horsham - Con Hold
Huntingdonshire - Con Hold
Hyndburn - Lab Hold
Ipswich - Lab Hold
Kettering - Con Hold
Kings Lynn and West Norfolk - Con Hold
Kingston-upon-Hull - Lab Hold
Kirklees - NoC
Knowsley - Lab Hold
Lancaster - NoC
Leeds - Lab Hold 
Leicester - Lab Hold
Lewes - Con Gain from NoC
Lichfied - Con Hold
Lincoln - Lab Hold
Liverpool - Lab Hold
Luton - Lab Hold
Maidstone - NoC 
Maldon - Con Hold
Malvern Hills - Con Hold
Manchester - Lab Hold
Mansfield - Lab Hold
Medway - Con Hold
Melton - Con Hold
Mendip - Con Hold
Mid Devon - Con Hold

Mid Suffolk - Con Hold
Mid Sussex - Con Hold
Middlesbrough - Lab Hold*
Milton Keynes - NoC
Mole Valley - Con Gain from NoC
New Forest - Con Hold
Newark and Sherwood - Con Gain from NoC
Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Lab Hold
Newcastle-under-Lyme - NoC
North Devon - NoC
North Dorset - Con Hold
North East Derbyshire - Lab Hold
North East Lincolnshire - NoC
North Herefordshire - Con Hold
North Kesteven - Con Hold
North Lincolnshire - Con Hold
North Nolfolk - Con Hold
North Somerset - Con Hold
North Tyneside - Lab Hold
North Warwickshire - Con Gain from Lab
Northampton - Con Hold
Norwich - Lab Hold
Nottingham - Lab Hold
Oadby and Wigston - Lib Dem Hold
Oldham - Lab Hold
Pendle - NoC
Peterborough - NoC
Plymouth - Lab lose to NoC
Poole - Con Gain from NoC
Portsmouth - NoC
Preston - Lab Hold
Purbeck - Con Gain from NoC

Reading - Lab Hold
Redcar and Cleveland - NoC
Redditch - Lab Hold
Reigate and Banstead - Con Hold
Ribble Valley - Con Hold
Richmonshire - Con Gain from Ind
Rochdale - Lab Hold
Rochford - Con Hold
Rossendale - Lab Hold
Rother - Con Hold
Rotherham - Lab Hold
Rugby - Con Hold
Runnymeade - Con Hold
Rushcliffe - Con Hold
Rushmoor - Con Hold
Rutland - Con Hold
Ryedale - Con Hold
Salford - Lab Hold
Sandwell - Lab Hold
Scarborough - Con Gain from NoC
Sedgemoor - Con Hold
Sefton - Lab Hold
Selby - Con Hold
Sevenoaks - Con Hold
Sheffield - Lab Hold
Shepway - Con Hold
Slough - Lab Hold
Solihull - Con Hold
South Buckinghamshire - Con Hold
South Cambridgeshire - Con Hold
South Derbyshire - Con Hold
South Gloucestershire - Con Gain from NoC
South Hams - Con Hold
South Holland - Con Hold
South Kesteven - Con Hold
South Lakeland - Lib Dem Hold
South Norfolk - Con Hold
South Northamptonshire - Con Hold
South Oxfordshire - Con Hold
South Ribble - Con Hold
South Somerset - Lib Dem lose to NoC
South Staffordshire - Con Hold
South Tyneside - Lab Hold
Southampton - Lab Hold
Southend-on-Sea - NoC
Spelthorne - Con Hold
St Albans - Con Gain from NoC
St Edmunsbury - Con Hold
St Helens - Lab Hold
Stafford - Con Hold 
Staffordshire Moorlands - Con Gain from NoC
Stevenage - Lab Hold
Stockport - NoC
Stockton-on-Tees - Lab Gain from NoC
Stoke-on-Trent - Lab lose to NoC
Stratford-on-Avon - Con Hold
Stroud - NoC
Suffolk Coastal - Con Hold
Sunderland - Lab Hold
Surrey Heath - Con Hold
Swale - Con Hold
Swindon - Con Hold
Tameside - Lab Hold
Tamworth - Con Hold
Tandridge - Con Hold
Taunton Deane - Con Gain from NoC
Teignbridge - Con Gain from NoC
Telford and the Wrekin - Lab lose to NoC
Tendring - Con lose to NoC
Test Valley - Con Hold
Tewkesbury - Con Hold
Thanet - UKIP Gain from NoC
Three Rivers - Lib Dem lose to NoC 
Thurrock - NoC
Tonbridge and Malling - Con Hold
Torbay - Con Hold
Torridge - Con Gain from NoC
Trafford - Con Hold
Tunbridge Wells - Con Hold
Uttersford - Con Hold
Vale of White Horse - Con Hold
Wakefield - Lab Hold
Walsall - NoC
Warrington - Lab Hold
Warwick - Con Gain from NoC
Watford - Lib Dem lose to NoC
Waveney - Con Hold
Wealdon - Con Hold
Wellingborough - Con Hold
Welwyn Hatfield - Con Hold
West Berkshire - Con Hold
West Devon - Con Gain from NoC
West Dorset - Con Hold
West Lancashire - Lab Gain from NoC
West Lindsey - Con Hold
West Oxfordshire - Con Hold
West Somerset - Con Hold
Weymouth and Portland - NoC
Wigan - Lab Hold
Winchester - Con Gain from NoC
Windsor & Maidenhead - Con Hold
Wirral - Lab Hold
Woking - Con Hold
Wokingham - Con Hold
Wolverhampton - Lab Hold
Worcester - Con Gain from NoC
Worthing - Con Hold
Wychavon - Con Hold
Wycombe - Con Hold
Wyre - Con Hold
Wyre Forest - Con Gain from NoC
York - NoC 

*Councillors not added as 3 wards still to declare